May 23, 2024

China cries foul as IAEA vouches for safety of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear waste water discharge plan

The process, once begun, will be irreversible, although safeguards are in place to halt the release in case of emergency. 

China cries foul as IAEA vouches for safety of Japan’s Fukushima water discharge plan

Nuclear safety watchdog’s final report paves way for Japan to greenlight release of treated wastewater within weeks. Read more at straitstimes.com.

TOKYO – A global watchdog on nuclear safety on Tuesday vouched for the safety of Japan’s controversial plan to discharge treated wastewater from its crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean.

The 129-page final report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) paves the way for Japan to green-light and begin the release within weeks.

The process, once begun, will be irreversible, although safeguards are in place to halt the release in case of emergency. Because water is continuously being generated and accumulated, the discharge will last for decades until Fukushima Daiichi’s full decommissioning, which is expected around 2051.

Despite Japan’s safety avowals, its plan has been lambasted by its neighbours including China, South Korea and some Pacific Island nations. Local fishermen, fearing damage to their livelihoods, have likewise opposed the discharge.

While the IAEA stressed that its report was “neither a recommendation nor an endorsement” of Japan’s water discharge decision, Tokyo regards it as a neutral approval to proceed.

Contaminated water is first treated to remove radioactive nuclides except tritium, a naturally occurring isotope of hydrogen that is a routine by-product of nuclear plants worldwide. It is then further diluted with seawater before ejection 1km from shore.

IAEA director-general Rafael Mariano Grossi told a news conference in Tokyo that his agency’s “comprehensive, neutral, objective and scientifically sound” evaluation showed that the planned discharge was consistent with global industry and safety standards.

He stressed that the discharge will have “negligible radiological impact to people and the environment”, including marine animals and plants.

“This process of dilution, and chemical and other filtering, is nothing new. It’s something that exists in the industry,” he said, adding that the method is also used by nuclear plants in countries such as China, South Korea, the United States and France.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said: “I will not allow a release that would harm people or the environment in Japan or around the world.”

He vowed “a high degree of transparency” in the process, saying that he will continuously give explanations “based on scientific rationale”.

The IAEA panel comprised nuclear safety experts from 11 countries including China, Marshall Islands, Russia and South Korea. Inter-laboratory tests were also held, involving the Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety in South Korea.

But the prospect of dumping tonnes of water from Fukushima – a word scarred by the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, that triggered one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters – into the Pacific Ocean has dredged up raw fears.

Any hopes Japan might have held that the IAEA’s report would smoothen the way forward for the water release – and Tokyo says there is no other way – were quickly dashed.

China, which has previously accused Japan of treating the Pacific Ocean as its “sewage dump”, said the report does not give Tokyo any legitimacy to proceed.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said the report “failed to fully reflect views from experts that participated in the review” and that its conclusion “was not shared by all experts”.

“The Chinese side regrets the hasty release of the report,” the spokesman said. “We believe that the IAEA report should not be the ‘shield’ or ‘green light’ for Japan’s discharge of nuclear-contaminated water into the ocean.”

Earlier on Tuesday, China’s Ambassador to Japan Wu Jianghao urged Japan to change course, noting that there was no precedent for the release of wastewater into the ocean after a nuclear accident.

“Japan says that nuclear power plants around the world are all discharging wastewater. But this water has not been exposed to a reactor core that has melted,” he said.

Reaction was mixed in South Korea, where President Yoon Suk-yeol has sought to mend bilateral ties that soured under his predecessor Moon Jae-in.

Mr Yoon’s administration, which has had to fight assertions that it was siding with Japan, said that any release of treated water must be “in compliance with international law and standards in a way that is scientifically and objectively safe”.

Still, ruling party floor leader Yun Jae-ok said on Tuesday: “It could be 10 years, it could be 100 years – until the public is assured, seafood imports from Fukushima will be banned.”

South Korea, which dispatched an inspection team to Fukushima in May, is planning to publish its own review report on the matter.

Meanwhile, South Koreans are panic-buying sea salt amid fears that future supplies will be tainted. Allegations are also swirling in Seoul that the IAEA had been bribed by a Japanese bureaucrat and that the conclusions were long fixed.

A South Korean reporter ambushed Dr Grossi after the news conference with a question about the alleged corruption. She was subdued by his bodyguards as the IAEA chief asserted: “I didn’t receive money, okay. This is absurd. Is that clear?”

Dr Grossi will go to South Korea, New Zealand and the Cook Islands after his Japan visit to discuss the report.

Japan’s stance is that it cannot put off the water discharge any longer as it hinders the decommissioning process, with no more space available to build new storage tanks at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

More than 1.3 million tonnes of water – enough to fill 500 Olympic-sized swimming pools – has accumulated in over 1,000 storage tanks. The water is treated using the Advanced Liquid Processing System, a pumping-and-filtration system that removes 62 types of radionuclides, except tritium.

Tritium is deemed to be relatively harmless because it is naturally occurring in tap water and rainfall and cannot penetrate human skin. The IAEA said that tritium, which has a half-life of about 12 years, is dangerous only if inhaled or ingested in very large doses.

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What to know about Japan’s plan to release treated radioactive water from Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea

Twelve years later, the damaged reactor cores still need to be cooled with water

What to know about Japan’s plan to release Fukushima waste water into the sea

The plan to dump treated radioactive waste water from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea has stirred debates in South Korea, and led to boycotts of Japanese goods in China. Japanese fishermen have also vehemently opposed the plan.

  • The plan to dump treated radioactive waste water from a nuclear plant into the sea has stirred debates in South Korea, and led to boycotts of Japanese goods in China
  • Japanese fishermen, whose livelihoods could be severely impacted, have also vehemently opposed the waste water disposal plan

As Japan prepares to release treated radioactive waste water from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea, opposition to the controversial plan continues to simmer across the region.

The country’s nuclear regulator on Wednesday began a final inspection of the water which is currently stored in about 1,000 huge tanks. It will be filtered and diluted before being released through an underwater tunnel that stretches one kilometre into the ocean.

But while Tokyo has sought to do its due diligence – seeking approval from its domestic nuclear regulator and ensuring the water meets international safety standards – the venture continues to spark controversy.

Greenpeace statement expressed concerns that the released radioactivity could alter human DNA, and Pacific Island nations have stated their worries that the move could contribute to nuclear contamination of the Blue Pacific.

The matter has also stirred debates in South Korea, and led to a consumer boycott of Japanese cosmetics in China.

In Hong Kong, Secretary for Environment and Ecology Tse Chin-wan said on Wednesday that if the discharge went ahead as planned, the city would immediately prohibit the import of aquatic products from the coastal prefectures in proximity to Fukushima and impose “stringent import control” on other such goods from elsewhere in Japan.

Local fishing communities in Fukushima are still suffering from bans on their produce, and many oppose the plan fearing reputational damage bringing financial losses to their business.

But the Japanese government maintains the water is safe, and is hoping to get a green light from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is set to release its final report on the safety of the Fukushima plan soon.

Environmental activists denounce the Japanese government’s plan to start releasing treated radioactive water from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean. Photo: AP

Environmental activists denounce the Japanese government’s plan to start releasing treated radioactive water from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean. Photo: AP

As Japan prepares to release treated radioactive waste water from the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea, opposition to the controversial plan continues to simmer across the region.

The country’s nuclear regulator on Wednesday began a final inspection of the water which is currently stored in about 1,000 huge tanks. It will be filtered and diluted before being released through an underwater tunnel that stretches one kilometre into the ocean.

But while Tokyo has sought to do its due diligence – seeking approval from its domestic nuclear regulator and ensuring the water meets international safety standards – the venture continues to spark controversy.

A Greenpeace statement expressed concerns that the released radioactivity could alter human DNA, and Pacific Island nations have stated their worries that the move could contribute to nuclear contamination of the Blue Pacific.

The matter has also stirred debates in South Korea, and led to a consumer boycott of Japanese cosmetics in China.

In Hong Kong, Secretary for Environment and Ecology Tse Chin-wan said on Wednesday that if the discharge went ahead as planned, the city would immediately prohibit the import of aquatic products from the coastal prefectures in proximity to Fukushima and impose “stringent import control” on other such goods from elsewhere in Japan.

Local fishing communities in Fukushima are still suffering from bans on their produce, and many oppose the plan fearing reputational damage bringing financial losses to their business.

But the Japanese government maintains the water is safe, and is hoping to get a green light from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is set to release its final report on the safety of the Fukushima plan soon.

The United Nations and nuclear experts in Japan have also said the treated waste water poses no threat.

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Subscribe to our YouTube channel for free here: https://sc.mp/subscribe-youtube Twelve years after the nuclear disaster caused by a massive earthquake and tsunami, workers at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan are preparing to release treated waste water into the sea despite opposition from locals.

As Japan prepares to follow through on the discharge, here are some key developments and controversies surrounding the plan:

The science

A massive earthquake and tsunami that hit the Japanese coast in 2011 melted down three reactors at the Fukushima plant and killed thousands of people.

Twelve years later, the damaged reactor cores still need to be cooled with water. But space to store this liquid is running out.

According to Associated Press, the tanks containing the treated water will reach their capacity in 2024. Last month, the storage tanks reached 97 per cent capacity, prompting Japan to move ahead with its plan to filter, treat and dilute the contaminated water before discharging it into the Pacific Ocean this summer.

Under the plan spearheaded by the nuclear plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), more than 1.3 million tons of water will be gradually released over two to three decades.

That proposal, as well as the safety of the treated water, has been questioned. Liu Guangyuan, the Commissioner of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong has argued that if the water is truly safe, it should be released off the coast of Japan rather than building a seabed tunnel to discharge it into the ocean.

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